Sex-negativity is a slippery slope (and lubrication is our BFF).

Some of you may have read former MMA superstar and champion Ronda Rousey talk sex advice with Maxim magazine yesterday. When asked about what men “should” (which is an iffy word to use when talking about other people’s lives, and particularly sexual lives, in general) never do in bed, she said that one of the things was adding lube. She said using lube is lazy. 

In my journey so far as a sexuality educator to various populations, I have heard variations of this thought, usually along the lines of lube being unnecessary if you “do things right”. So I decided to share some thoughts on lube and sex and why #lubeislove.

I think it is fair to assume that Rousey was coming from a particular place with particular assumptions. I would take a wild guess and say that she was thinking about cisgender, heterosexual couples having penis-in-vagina (PiV for short) sex. So let’s start with that. There are plenty of situations, conditions, illnesses and medications (to name some contexts) which can make natural vaginal lubrication difficult, insufficient or impossible. Cancer, anti-depressants, age and just your garden-variety sunny-day dehydration are a few of the things that come to mind as factors that can influence one’s need for additional lube. Saying that these women – and other vulva-owners – are being lazy is dismissive of their situation, putting the blame on them for their very normal natural processes, and shaming them for needing/wanting some slippery assistance.

“Sliding” out of the vagina and into other very common, equally-legit types of sex, the anus, nipples, as well as most of the human body don’t produce natural lubrication. Anal sex, solo sex with toys, “rough” sex, and many other types of sex that I do not have time to fully explore (right now, anyway) may require or at least greatly benefit from artificial lubrication. Not using some, or shaming those who do, is not only insensitive and ignorant, it is also dangerous.

Let’s do some best/worst case scenario analysis of lube, yeah? The worst consequence I can think of (you can correct me if I’m wrong) of having too much lube is to have too much lube inside an external (or “male”) condom and having it slide off. Which can be really bad, yes, and one should try not to have that happen. I’m having a tough time thinking of any other negative thing. Maybe having your hands so full of lube that you accidentally drop your magic wand and your orgasm is stopped mid-way? I would say that’s pretty manageable.
Possible and probable consequences of not having enough lube, however are pain, chafing, tearing (and infections that can be more easily transmitted as a consequence of these tears), bleeding, a condom breaking. Not to mention a negative sexual experience, which can influence our psychological health as well as our relationship with our body and/or partners. These are sad-to-possibly-disastrous outcomes that can be easily helped with a few drops of magic.

Needless (but apparently still very needed) to say, sex (of any kind) is had by more people than “vanilla” (non-kinky) heterosexual cisgender young able-bodied people into PiV sex. 

I will repeat myself on this: There are so many situations, contexts, bodies and activities in which extra lubrication may be wanted or needed, and in calling men lazy for bringing lube into the equation, she (or anyone holding similar views, because Rousey is not alone in her opinion, unfortunately) is assigning blame. Natural lubrication is a chemical thing, and chemicals know nothing about blame. You can do everything “right” (whatever that means for you) and still need or want lube. Men can absolutely use listening to their partners, and everyone could use taking as much time as they need in everything they do with regards to sex, but using lube is not losing manhood points, or failing as a man, or being a lousy partner, or being lazy.
There is another problem that I see in Rousey’s ‘advice’, but this is not her fault at all. The importance of pleasure is not talked about enough in most mainstream media (sex advice columns and magazines included), in general. Even when one does not *need* lube, it can make many activities more fun and pleasurable and smoother for people using it.

The way I talk about lube and other sex toys and aids when I talk to (particularly straight) young people is that I don’t *need* chocolate, for example, but I still love it and it makes me super happy and that’s why I eat it. Sex is not about the “bare” (I cannot help the pun) minimum, or “just enough”. Sex can be so much more than that, and many people could benefit from asking “what can be done to make the sex I am having even better?” That’s not lazy, like Rousey suggests. It is the exact opposite of lazy, actually. It is striving for the best you can get out of the experience of sex – whatever that means for you – and your partner.

I obviously agree that everyone can take as much time as they and their partner need, and I relate to Rousey’s sentiment and intention on that wholeheartedly, but lube is not a substitute for that, and is not meant as such. What would be lazy, if anything, would be not having frank conversations with your partner about what they really want and what (if anything) is missing from their sexual experience. Including lube.

 

We no longer live in a time where the only lube we had besides what our bodies produce was olive oil or mashed yams. We have silicon-based lube (which is long-lasting, water-resistant and usually silky, but bad to use with silicon toys) and water-based lube (lasts less and is not the best for anal but can also be super smooth and can be used with any toy) and oil-based lubes (which are a no-no if you are going to use a condom but are pretty good in most other ways). There are flavored lubes and scented ones and heat-enhancing ones and tingly ones. There are some that are creamy, others are silky, others feel like the “real thing”, and others are more of a gel. We have them vegan and glycerin-free and enhanced with vitamins and others that are supposed to make your vag high. There is literally so much to be explored, if one wants to. I never want to shame people for not using or trying or wanting lube, but shaming people for trying it and calling its usage lazy seems like such an odd, inaccurate, sex-negative thing to do.

 

The main thing in this whole situation that I see as lazy is ignoring and failing to research all that is out there on how lube can potentially make your sex life better and instead making snap judgments, missing out on the fantastic world of lubrication.

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In passing

I have posted this before on my personal blog, but it is relevant to sexuality and intersectionality and art is revolution so, I am reposting it here. With intro too.

The one where I think and ramble about skin color & privilege & a tear between two homes that see me through different eyes. Being whiter-than in Mexico and being able to pass as white (or Canadian, at least) in Montreal, attempting to speak about race eloquently while trying not to take up too much space while checking my privilege while taking note of the ways in which said privilege applies & doesn’t when far from the birth-home. Balancing others’ attempt to decide how I should identify / act, while realising I have no idea how I identify either. The rambling continues:

I am white… enough that
my family believes, and reminds me
that I DESERVE a white man
by my side.

I am white… enough that
I am perfectly bilingual
And you don’t wonder how come
Or, who paid for it?

I’m white… enough for bro’s to say
“Babe, you look French, Italian, Greek
But NOT AT ALL MEXICAN.” (wink)
Like it’s a goddamn compliment.

I’m also latina enough to surprise you
with my incredibly charming movie quotes
How could you know Hollywood has sparkly combat boots
That colonized my childhood?

I am white enough, but brown enough
that no one ever asks
about the gross inequality
that raised me.

I am white… enough that
when I’m at Halloween parties
sometimes maybe no one puts
a fucking sombrero on my head

I am white… enough, but latina enough that
I have a last name to dump,
and the European one to keep,
for job interviews..

I am white… enough that
my skin tells an awful story
of my people being systematically,
unforgivably screwed over.

I am white… enough that
I can let people forget
I am an Other,
If– no, WHEN — it’s necessary.

I am white… enough,
but latina enough
That I can camouflage
but I still need to.

I am white… enough that
You feel a bit too comfortable
your white ally card sitting in your pocket
when you make “ironic” “post-racial” jokes

I am white… enough that
I’m not always fetishized
That my sex can sometimes, maybe be
Something other than “exotic”.

I am white… enough
to be pretty fucking privileged
but my blood is dark enough,
that sometimes I don’t see it.

I am white… enough to be asked
to speak about racial inequalities
and be heard. But also to know
That I know nothing. Not really.

I am white… enough that
I never had to think about it
Until I was no longer
The whitest.

I am whiter than-
but darker than-, as well
I learned early on to know
my worth in relative terms.

I am white enough but latina enough
That I’m not immigrant enough, not assimilated enough
Not privileged enough, not oppressed enough
Not light-skinned enough, not dark-skinned enough.
Not white enough, not latina enough

To speak in good enough words
To be visible in clear enough colors,
To exist in a way that makes sense.

On the idea of foreplay

I want to start this blog post with an assertion some might consider controversial (and therein lies the problem): THERE IS NO SUCH ACTUAL THING AS FOREPLAY.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now. I think it’s time.

Foreplay is the thing that comes before play, right? For it to be a universally understood thing, “play” would have to be not only a universally understood thing, but a universal standard for what needs to happen for an event to be valid or real.

So let’s imagine a world without foreplay, “only” “sex”. This imaginary world brings up a couple of important questions: Which types of play are valid and therefore considered “actual sex”? Which types of sex are left out? Who’s sex is left out? Who’s pleasure is left out?

What does it mean to say that foreplay is not a universal category?

To me, it means that sex (the play in foreplay) does not necessarily or exclusively involve penis-in-vagina sex. It may involve two penises, or two vaginas, or a penis and a vagina that interact in ways that don’t involve penetration, or that other body parts mingle with each other and the genitals aren’t even invited to the party. It may involve Skype, or a phone, it may involve less or more than two people. It may involve clothes or no clothes. It may involve toys. It may involve nothing but dirty talk.

It means that sex is had by people of more sexual orientations, gender identities, and body configurations & combinations than a person with a penis and another with a vagina, and that even when that is the combination, people’s sexuality go way beyond (and often without) penetration. It means that all the various types of sex are no less valid than cisgender heterosexual able-bodied sex.

It means that everything before, after, during and outside of penetration is no less real or important, and doesn’t have to lead up to anything for it to be worth having.

It means that when someone tells you ‘I just had sex’, you know virtually nothing about what actually happened. And maybe that’s on purpose, because it may be none of your business.

Furthermore,

The idea of foreplay is scary.

It is scary because it makes sense almost exclusively if you are a cisgender dude. A cis dude with no imagination, too. Let’s be real.

It is scary that so many magazines, online media, and everyday conversations treat foreplay with a question mark, dating sites ask the question “Do you think foreplay is necessary?” and a gross amount of people answer ‘No’. It’s not scary because I think it is not valid to just drop your pants, go in and out and then leave. If people want to do that and negotiate so beforehand, that’s great. It is scary because when someone asks how much foreplay is normal or necessary, what I hear is “what is the very bare minimum of caring about the other person’s pleasure that I have to do to get what I want?” And I mean, a guy who thinks my pleasure and comfort is an obstacle course on his way to stick his dick wherever he pleases does not only make me sad, and grossed out, but also scared.
It is also scary (terrifying, actually) because if some sort of foreplay isn’t necessary and it’s only optional, there is little room for consent to be freely given. There is a pressure inherent in the term that if you agree to the fore it’s because you are leading up to the play. If you don’t ‘deliver’ (EWWW, intimacy isn’t pizza), you were leading them on, you are a tease.

There are more layers to the idea of “leading someone on” (namely this idea that women are evil manipulators out to trick men into being attracted to us only to not give “any” in return, which is fucked up and deserves its own blog post), but initially there is definitely a number of assumptions being made. The biggest assumption I have identified is that every seemingly sexual or romantic behaviour or action we engage in is with the purpose of, at the end of the obstacle course, have intercourse. There is an assumption that everything before penetration is a promise that penetration will happen, and that is not how consent works.

The idea of foreplay is also sad.

Why sad, you ask? It leaves much less room for imagination and creativity and understanding and pleasure. I understand it is easier to think of activities and things in life as having a beginning, a middle and an end: foreplay, intercourse, orgasm. But you know what that is besides easier? Boring. Not only is it completely not inclusive or validating of folks who can’t and/or don’t want to have penetrative sex, but it makes many of us lazy. If foreplay is just a necessary thing to get to the “main event”, we don’t explore. We rush through it like we rush through our veggies to get to the dessert. And some veggies are delicious. Sometimes you want to go for seconds, cook something you’ve never cooked before, have a nice conversation while you’re at it. Sometimes the chef spent a great amount of effort on a meal and there you are thinking about the cupcakes you’ll get later.

Finally, the idea of foreplay is infuriating. 

It is infuriating because it prioritizes cis men and their pleasure and their orgasm, since included in the category of foreplay are all the things that, statistically, are more likely than penetration to be pleasurable and potentially orgasmic for everyone who’s not a cis dude.

It is infuriating because it makes many men feel entitled enough to get upset at women for not “delivering”. As if sex was something to be given, and as if “foreplay” was a contract signed without any need to talk it out. The only reason men can think someone led them on is if they didn’t ask or communicate or negotiate beforehand. We as women don’t owe men a disclaimer or an apology every time we don’t want penetration, but may want something else. But the heterosexual, cisgender expectations of what foreplay means has conditioned us to think everything that isn’t penetration should head in that direction, so much so that women often feel compelled to apologize for stopping and/or switching gears along the way.

It is difficult to deconstruct and unlearn our ideas about foreplay, but it is crucial in having better conversations and understanding of consent, communication, and pleasure.

Foreplay is not a thing. Destroy the idea that foreplay is a thing. Or at the very least question it: what things qualify as foreplay to you? what about play, or sex? Does that change how you view/do these activities and/or the people you do them with? Do you talk about these expectations with partners?

When a public figure you like is accused of sexual assault…

TW: discussion of sexual assault, rape culture, talk of suicidal thoughts

Yes, I am talking about Ghomeshi, although before yesterday I knew nothing about him, how famous he was, what he was famous for, etc. I have been reading up on him today, because there were some red flags I saw in the comments people were making about the CBC firing him.

You can look it up, or read up a bit here. I am not going to talk about his case in particular, but about feelings and knee-jerk reactions we may have when a public figure we like is accused of sexual assault. [A lot of feelings are similar to when someone we like and know personally is accused, but that would be a larger conversation which I don’t have time to write about now.]


First, I am going to tell you a short story about Conor Oberst. I grew up listening to his music. And when I say listening, I don’t mean bobbing my head to some chill tunes. I mean crying my eyes out, planning the best way to kill myself, finding something close enough to solace in his angsty, shaking voice. I cried when I saw him live. I followed his angsty self to the depths of every musical project he embarked on, know every lyric, and I have heard and seen every single piece of media written about him. This is no joking matter.

He had some rape accusations of his own happen earlier this year, about a thing that happened (or “allegedly” happened, or not even allegedly anymore because the survivor withdrew her statements) about 12 years ago. When I read about these accusations, my heart stopped for a second. My first reaction was to say it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true. The first article I read was clearly biased against the survivor (COLOR ME SHOCKED) and it worked on me for a few minutes. Her story was flaky, she had had contradicting statements in the past 12 years, etc. But then I stopped myself, and repeated my mantra: always believe survivors, always believe survivors. So I looked into it more, I read what she had said, her reasons (or lack thereof) for lying, his situation at the time, etc. I concluded that I believed her.

Even when she withdrew her statement against him, I believed her. Why? Because I wasn’t there, and I am not a court of law, but statistically speaking, and given all the facts, she was likely a victim. Because my feelings wanted to side with him – and that is what most abusers are counting on: they are charming, likeable, innocent looking (I am burrowing words from you, Malek Yalaoui). Abuse, and impunity for that abuse, wouldn’t work otherwise. Now, again, I won’t go into details, but to this day, regardless of what the official, legal or public papers say: I cannot side with Conor. I can love his music for all that it’s done for me, and I can appreciate his genius, but I cannot side with him. I will never know the truth, and the accusations have been dropped, but I cannot side with him. He could be innocent, sure, but I cannot side with him.

And don’t get me wrong. It was not easy. I cried about it, I wrote at least three drafts to things I never published. I couldn’t. His art had helped me survive, and he could be a rapist. It is fucking hard. But I cannot fucking side with him just because it is hard.


And on to more solid, withstanding, “official” allegations: Your feelings about John Lennon or his art don’t make him less of a domestic abuser. Your feelings about Woody Allen or his art don’t make him any less of a child molester. Your feelings about Roman Polanski or his art don’t make him any less of a rapist. YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT GHOMESHI (and whatever he does) DO NOT MAKE HIM ANY LESS OF A SEXUAL PREDATOR.

I know it is hard, okay? You grew up listening to him, liking him. You may have some personal stories relating to him – that time you listened to him with your grandpa, or when you laughed a lot at his jokes with your wife. I do not know your stories. But I get it: you do not want to think that someone you like, someone you may respect, someone you have written erotic fanfiction about (I don’t know, okay? It happens) is a rapist. But your feelings don’t change the facts. They just make them more complex and hard to think about. But they can also allow abusers to continue abusing, because they know – and trust me, a media-savvy charmer like Ghomeshi KNOWS THIS VERY WELL – that you will think they are too nice/hot/charming/young/innocent-looking/left-wing/”feminist ally” to be abusers.

It says a lot about our culture, about rape culture, that we think because he is charming and good looking and funny and young, that the women must be lying. Their negatives are not possible because charm=consent? NO. But it is true that it is easier to think that than to realize we live in a world where bad guys are not easily identifiable by their horns and their fangs and their neon signs that say “predator”. (And how racist, classist, and ageist it often is when we do think someone looks like a predator, huh? Another topic for another day.)

What I mean is: talk about your feelings, by all means. Process them, write them down. Hell, cry them out. Mourn your loss (Conor Oberst may be alive and kicking, but he is pretty dead to me.) But do not for a second condone an abuser just because repeating to yourself that they are innocent is emotionally easier than admitting that they did the fucked up thing.
Edit: While this post was written about Ghomeshi, and my story with Oberst, it is unfortunately timeless, it seems. So, really, it is a post about the complexities of rape culture and pop culture and problematic (I hate using that term, it hides all sorts of horrors under a meaningless blanket word) rapist faves.

 

[Besides what you can Google yourself, which may or may not be victim-blaming trash, here are a couple extra links:]

poor prosecuted pervert? in defense of BDSM and critical of Jian’s claims, by Andrea Zanin.

On Jian Ghomeshi and Rape Culture

Liking ‘Q’ Isn’t a Good Enough Reason to Side with Jian

An amazing Twitter convo with Anne Teriault on believing the abuser.

I’ll Believe Jian’s Accuser Before I Believe a Man in Power

Hello, my name is Feminism, and I am unloveable.

I am re-posting this entry I had in my other blog, as it fits well with the themes in this blog as well. I am editing a bit from the original, too. — My dad recently shared with me a fear that I know he’s had for quite some time. He told me, “I am worried that because of your choices (to study and speak loudly about feminist issues, to seek a career in sexuality education, among other “choices” he might suspect but doesn’t speak about), you will never get married.” I laughed.

I laughed because what else was I to do, really? I laughed because I knew it, I knew that a lot of his efforts to keep me away from activism, from women’s studies, from gaining weight, from dressing like a tomboy, from being too outspoken, were not exclusively about him not wanting me to be that way, but him thinking no man would ever want me otherwise.I laughed because after years of becoming more confident in my own skin, my own ideas, it sounded like such a laughable thing: “Oh heaven FORBID I never land a husband! What would my life mean then?!” I laughed because I have been loved and will be loved BECAUSE of who I am, not IN SPITE of it. I laughed because I think it’s cute (in a weird, kinda horribe way) that my dad thinks the kind of man that finds me intimidating is the kind of man I would even want. I laughed, too, because he said “man” and “get married” which are two things that are very much optional and avoidable in my life plan.

But really, let’s think about it for a second. I know my dad’s worry all too well, and it terrifies me that most people who were raised as women probably know it too.

It’s the line that isn’t written in every lady magazine article about how to look younger, hotter, thinner. It’s whispered after statements such as “oh I believe in equality, but I am not a feminist or anything radical like that”. It’s what you can hear if you play any good old slutshaming parent’s record backwards.

It’s the worry that if you don’t play by certain rules (shout out to the patriarchy!), you will become “unloveable”.

I know I have feared that too, more than I care to admit. I also know that I laughed at my dad’s “confession” because I can laugh now, now that I love myself enough to know sexist disapproval is just that: sexist. I understand the fear of being unloveable, because we all want to be loved, accepted, appreciated. But the fact that most women are at least somewhat familiar with the “no guy will ever love you” (implicit or explicit) threat makes me really anxious, and angry too.

I want parents worried that theirs sons would stay away from feminist women. What would a decent human be afraid of in a feminist?

I want parents worried that their sons will reject a woman based on what she does or doesn’t do with her body hair, or her weight. I want parents worried that their sons grow up feeling entitled to an opinion when it comes to women’s appearance or bodies in general.

I want parents worried that their daughters will stay silent about things they care about in order to please men. I want parents worried that their daughters think feminism is too radical a thought, that equality is too much to ask.

I want parents worried that sexuality education is a field that gets so much heat, that gets slut-shamed. That slut-shaming is a thing that exists. I want parents worried that slut-shaming & sexism in general would deter people from persuing whatever career they want.

I want parents worried that the media and the patriarchy have led us to believe that a woman’s – and a man’s, to a different degree – only road to happiness (because I do think my dad wants me to land a husband so I can be happy) is heterosexual, monogamous marriage. [Not that it can’t bring people happiness or that it isn’t a valid choice, of course. But there are as many roads to happiness as there are people.]

I want parents worried that their kids are being taught that women’s lives revolve around men. That women’s worth is dependent on men’s approval, or men’s desire, or even men’s love. A person’s worth is dependent on them existing in this world, period.

Honestly, there is so much I would be worried about if I was a parent. However, whether my daughter can find a husband who will take her in all her feminist, sexuality-educator ways would not be one of those things.

Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 3

Continuing with my series of notes on The Feminist Porn Book, I am taking this next one from Candida Royalle’s essay, “What’s a Nice Girl Like You…”

This quote is about porn but really it’s about every aspect of sexuality, IMHO.

“If women don’t create their own erotic visions, their own sexual language, men will continue to do it for us and we’ll never fully understand our own unique sexual nature.” Candida Royalle

Candida Royale was one of the first women to make “porn for women” – a term that, although now problematic, spoke in its beginnings (and still does today to an extent) to a need for porn that was not so into money shots, not so lacking in foreplay and in female orgasms, porn with a little more conversation to go with the action, please (geddit?).

This quote – or rather, how I think about it – is about much more than that, though.

Of course, having women (or anyone that is not cis, hetero, able-bodied, male & white) direct & call the shots in porn allows for others fantasies to be explored, other bodies to be shown, other types of sex to be represented. And that is awesome. That is not the start, or the end of it, though.

Across the board, it is primarily men deciding what our bodies should look like, how we should feel about them, what they should mean to us, and how it is acceptable to use our own bodies and sexuality. Mass media, the “medical community”, mainstream porn, the beauty industry: they are by and large owned by white cis-het able-bodied rich men who get to tell everyone what sexy looks like, what normal looks like, what acceptable, healthy sexuality should look like.

[Oddly enough, if you ask me, enthusiastic consent is the only “should” that has a place when it comes to sexuality, and yet it is the one thing that none of these industries seem to care about.]

We could be the ones calling the shots on what our bodies feel like and what we want them to look like. We could be the ones calling the shots on what our fantasies are, what our sex looks & tastes & sounds & feels like, and if and when we choose to even have it.

This is something we can all learn from feminist pornographers: we get to decide what we think is sexy, acceptable, desirable, healthy for us & our bodies. And your sexy, acceptable, desirable & healthy will not necessarily (or likely) look like my sexy, acceptable, desirable & healthy, and that’s okay. That’s friggin’ awesome, in fact, because choice is at the heart of feminism & sex-positivity, and should be at the heart of just basic human decency, to be honest.

We don’t have to make our own porn for this to be the case – although if you feel so inclined, please do make your own porn, and tell me all about it afterwards! Everytime we are thinking about our own body and sexuality & feel a “should” question coming to our brain (should I ask them to take out the whips? should I lose a few pounds? should I wear this tight glittery dress?), we could replace the should with a want. Do we want to ask them to take out the whips? Do we want to lose a few pounds? Do we want to wear the tight glittery dress?

As long as we ask and get the consent of everyone involved in whatever is going on – and no, your judgmental fatphobic aunt is not INVOLVED in your weight – then you should feel free to do whatever you want to do.

Going back to the quote, moreover, if we don’t start (or continue) pushing back against what the media, the beauty industry, most of mainstream porn, & the patriarchy at large tells us to look, feel & fuck like, the powers that be will continue to do it for us. And how do we fight back? Sometimes it is one outfit choice at a time, or one sexy session, or one meal, or one heartfelt conversation. Hell, even a selfie at a time. One shame-induced should at a time.

 

This is not to say of course that we are at fault if we are unable, unwilling or too exhausted to push back & fight the oppressive systems that tell us we don’t look the part, we don’t fuck right, we don’t do as we should. It’s okay to be tired of fighting back; it is okay if you don’t feel emotionally or physically safe doing so.

The corporations, the media, the government should be the one changing to become better at representing its costumers, its consumers, its people. Some brave folks work everyday from within these systems & structures & institutions to try to shift gears towards more humane capitalism (is that even a real thing, I ask?) It is not enough though, and it will never be.

Empowerment & resistance start at home, because body- & sex-negative capitalism – or sketchy, sexist, racist porn, for that matter – isn’t going to hand over the power. We gotta take it ourselves.

—————-

If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.

 

Related bits (re: shame, empowerment, sex-positivity)

What Revenge Porn Tells Us About Sex and Humilliation | Charlie Glickman

The cost of sexual shame | The Salon

Megan Falley – “Fat Girl” (poem)

Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 2

I am continuing my series of entries on quotes from one of the sex-posi favorites in my bookshelf, The Feminist Porn Book.

“You see, erotic filmmakers were the original indie filmmakers. The fact that their films turned you on was no different from a different genre scaring the daylights out of you, or making you cry. Films are great vehicles to elicit strong emotion. When they touch you on multiple levels simultaneously, we call them ‘masterpieces'” Susie Bright

This quote speaks to the movie lover in me. I don’t know a lot (actually, nothing at all) about film, so my reaction to movies is very simple: I like it the most when it makes me feel something – anything.

I appreciate the quote because it attempts – as I and many sexuality educators do as well – to normalize porn and porn consumption. Just like sex work is still work but is treated very differently (and sometimes violently) because sex is taboo in our society, porn flicks are still flicks that are treated very differently , often because the emotions and sensations (arousal, pleasure) it can produce are taboo in our society. The taboo gives us a story about the society it lives in, but it is not a valid reason to judge the work itself, the porn movie itself.

We sometimes think of or perceive pleasure as unacceptable, inappropriate, shameful. But really, fear, excitement, anger: they’re all ways in which our bodies and brains are aroused. It’s the same thing with sexual arousal.

This quote also says a lot about how pornographic films – I don’t mean PornHub four-minute videos here – are looked down upon when they take their own set of skills and they are their own genre, within film and media. Both mainstream and feminist porn have certain conventions, standards, particular practices to the genre. Same with actors – just like not every average Joe can pull off what Tom Hiddleston (and his stunt doubles, I guess) can, not a lot of gals can do flexibility, grace & endurance like Stoya can.

Susie Bright’s quote reminds me, moreover, of the fact that pornography (as is clasified by whoever classifies pornography) is not the only type of film, or media, that can sexually arouse. I don’t know about my readers, but seeing Loki making everyone kneel is a pretty intense experience.

All jokes aside, different images and mediums and formats arouse different people, but they are not all treated the same way. To mark as pornographic the media that has sexual arousal as a purpose makes sense, I guess, but it is also alienating. A shoe fetishist can enjoy watching Sex & The City more than they enjoy YouPorn, for all I know. And THAT IS OKAY. Pleasure as one of many sensations and emotions that film, or TV, brings out in us, is okay.

Now you may think, “Well yes, but isn’t it calling some porn film a masterpiece a bit of a stretch?” I don’t really know. I don’t think so. A porno, within its genre & era & budget & goals, CAN be a masterpiece. Just like you can’t (or would probably be mistaken to) compare an Action movie to a Documentary – because the skills, the required talents, the money going into them, etc are not comparable – I would not ask anyone to compare, I don’t know, No Country for Old Men to Much More Pussy.

(Even the criticism of porn as being racist, sexist, with sometimes sketchy work conditions. I hate to say it but most industries have varying degrees of racism, sexism, & it is always the case that the more an employee needs a job, the more an employer feels like they can abuse their power. Sexism, classism, violence, racism, ablesim: they are society issues, not pornography issues.)

I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t be so quick to judge or look down on the porn flicks, or the porn performers, or the porn consumers. Their art is not all that different & neither are their struggles.

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If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.